Obedience As the Means to a Peaceful Life Essay

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What leads a perfectly reasonable person to obediently follow the command to harm someone who has done no wrong to them? Why would someone follow orders to lace Kool-aid with cyanide and extinguish the lives of over 1,000 faithful men, women and children? Or to torture and degrade prisoners without provocation? Why would anyone follow directions to administer electric shocks of increasing strength as punishment for failing a simple memory test? While these scenarios may sound like the newest video games in which one assumes the character of another, people can and do commit violent acts like these in the name of obedience. Zimbardo, Milgram and Orwell show that obedience is a response to the role one assumes in life; to find personal …show more content…
These men could have discussed any number of topics but their conversations were almost completely limited to prison related topics such as the quality of the food, plans to escape and ways to get into the good graces of the guards. (Zimbardo 394) The guards demonstrated their assumed role by exerting authority over the prisoners through demeaning tasks, threats, control of their meals as well as dictating if and when prisoners were permitted use the bathroom. The guards and prisoners weren’t the only ones to embrace their role in the experiment; parents, relatives and friends willingly complied with the stringent rules for visitation and submitted to the prison authorities. All the participants, including the research psychologists who played the part of prison warden and superintendent, later reported being so immersed in their respective roles that they forgot it was an experiment and not a real prison. All of the participants were consumed by their need to fulfill their obligation to their compatriots, willing to act in a way they would not normally to please those with authority over them. Through obedience the participants were able to accept that their actions were not theirs, but that they were justified in their reactions, which enabled them to come to peaceful…